Saint Norbert of Xanten

Saint Norbert was born in Xanten, near the Rhineland in Germany. He grew up and was also educated in Xanten, near Wesel, in the Electorate of Cologne. His father, Heribert, Count of Gennep, was a member of the high nobility of the Holy Roman Empire and related to the imperial house and also to the House of Lorraine. His mother was Hedwig of Guise.

Through the influence of his family he obtained a financial subsidy from the parish church of St. Victor at Xanten when he accepted ordination to the subdeaconate. His only task was to chant the Divine Office at the Church, but he apparently paid someone a small fee to take his place in the choir, because he gained an appointment as a chaplain (religious counselor) to the emperor Henry V in Cologne. The salaries from the Xanten fund and the royal treasury were enough to equip him to live in the style of the nobility of the times.

Norbert chose a valley in the Forest of Coucy (a grant from the Bishop of Laon), about 10 miles from Laon, named Prémontré. Blessed Hugh of Fosses, Saint Evermode, Antony of Nivelles, seven students of the celebrated school of Anselm, and Ralph of Laon were among his first thirteen disciples. By the next year the community had grown to 40. They all took their vows and the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré was founded. The young community at first lived in huts of wood and clay, arranged like a camp around the chapel of Saint John the Baptist, but they soon built a larger church and a monastery for the religious who joined them in increasing numbers. Going to Cologne to obtain relics for their church, Norbert is said to have discovered, through a dream, the spot where those of Saint Ursula and her companions, of Saint Gereon, and of other martyrs lay hidden. In 1125, the constitution for the order was approved by Pope Honorius II.Read More »